Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Sherlock Holmes versus the Devil

Netflix was popping up a little thing called Errementari tonight, and, well . . . .

It's a Basque film  based upon an old legend, that sort of old legend from all sorts of Western cultures about a man who faces the devil. Daniel Webster, a fiddlin' boy named Johnny, Santa Claus, Tenacious D, etc., etc. Of course those are the stories of the winners, and not just those who make deals with the devil.

In the case of Errementari , it's a blacksmith.

Sherlock Holmes went looking for the devil a couple of times, most notably in "The Adventure of the Devil's Foot." Of course, Holmes never expected to find a real devil or other denizen of Hell. Which is what Sherlock Holmes is all about . . . I've long said, if he had ever truly investigated that Dracula business, he wouldn't have found a vampire, but a smuggling ring or something similar that preyed upon fears of the locals. (Pretty much like the Scooby Doo gang would specialize in a century later.)

When one thinks about how Sherlock Holmes mostly dealt with human criminals that one might call "devils," it might be a little surprising to find the first two devils of the Canon are a little too familiar: the "poor devil" and the "lazy devil."

The first is Watson, given the title by Stamford. The second, Sherlock Holmes, self-identified.

The next devil is of the canine variety, but hound of hell? No, this one is a "little devil," Mrs. Hudson's terrier.

And that's all the devils of A Study in Scarlet. Once you leave that novel behind, you start getting into both the more nefarious devils in human form and that vague devil that everyone was always trying to go as fast as, before we had jet engines or the Flash. (Curious how that last fellow is entirely clad in devil red.) There are a lot of mentions of devils in the Canon, but, fortunately, more mentions of God to provide a nice counter-balance. (If you were worried about having to lock the Canon away as being devil-ridden, there are enough utterings of "God help us!" and "Thank God!" to more than keep them at bay.)

Perhaps, however, if we take the uses in A Study in Scarlet, Sherlock Holmes and John Watson were, like most all of us, just dealing with their own personal devils more than any other.

As for the blacksmiths of the Canon, there's only one. And he couldn't seem to deal with regular old Grimesby Roylott, so I doubt he was up to the devil-handling mettle of the Errementari specimen of the trade.

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